In May, It Is Everything


Of all the months in the year, I am most aware of my place in the world as an un-mothered in May. With Mother’s Day, and the birth and death of my mother occurring weeks apart, the desire to not confess even to myself, the state of my being un-mothered, is most palpable. I always have with me a criminal sensation to escape it altogether, the heat and rush that bears upon how fast a criminal can move against time, farther and farther away from the crime scene.

This desire is not burdened with gutting meaning as it was when I was younger; when I would cry on Mothering Sunday services, all the women in blue and white uniform unaware of how much envy was deposited in me by the simple fact of their aliveness, their moving and functional limbs harassing the aisles of my cousin’s Anglican church.

Now living through May seems at best an act of compulsion, a ritual for which I must observe in order to survive. On my mother’s birthdates, a specific anxiety still permeates through the hours of my day, even though it doesn’t decide on its purpose, whether it requires a hurting from me or a subversive shrug, that kind of barren acceptance that is as religious as it is hedonistic.

Thinking of the things that might align or misalign in the many conceptions of my mother, I approach a place of wild confusion, of a deeper feeling of grief I am yet to be accustomed to. When loss occurs, and after many years, it seems like that loss might have been explored and reconciled. But anyone living with the loss of someone they loved quite equally as they love the ongoing of life knows that to be untrue; that loss has no summary or tidiness, that the feeling is disruptive no matter how long ago it exacted itself. The geometry of loss is cunning like that, almost like a lover who hasn’t decided if or not they want to commit to you. There are strange odd days, and days when you’re sure that nothing else matters, when you are washed pure with gratitude for having even known them.

My mother would have been 50 years old yesterday. Would she have desired a lavish celebration or might she have shied from birthdays the way I do, feeling anxiety as a response to love rather than gratitude? Might her marriage to my father have survived? And whatever the result of that was, what would it have meant to our relationship? Would I require from her more than she could have been willing to give? Had she known I would lead a life as this? What stories would I have made of her, what virtues would I have found worthy of immortalising? Other than her capacity to devote herself entirely to people, to show up in stylish garments, what else of her was in me? I cannot be sure. I rely mostly on stories the way the blind feels for walls. Stories of her by the people who knew her still demonstrates the breaths of her humanity with clean, consumable language. The thing about both anyway is that it is still possible to trip and fall both in blind-walking and storytelling. The accident of living is readily available to these two acts, and time remains the only true objective. 

In May, how to excavate back into time is always the question for me, to return to the moment and reoccurring fact of my life: I have been un-mothered for 22 years. I do not reflect with sadness. I do not feel threatened by it either, though this feeling is still vast and often incomprehensible; grounded with as much certainty as my name holds. There is an absence of tone almost, even in making this text, just the matter of factness that brings about a tension for which I wish to abandon the activity of imagining my mother’s un-lived years altogether.